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April 27, 2004
For Immediate Release

Media Contact
Kristi Marren
JHU Applied Physics Laboratory
Phone: 240-228-6268 or 443-778-6268

Media Advisory

APL Hosts Student Robotic Competition on Space Day

Media Invited to Attend May 6 Educational Event

Nearly 400 middle school students from 22 schools across Maryland will compete in the fourth annual TEAMS (Technology Education Alliance with Middle Schools) science and technology competition May 6 at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. Schools from Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties are participating in this year's event being held on Space Day — an annual educational initiative to promote math, science, technology and engineering to students around the globe.

Through robotic games, the TEAMS program is designed to show middle school students how teaming enables them to solve technology problems that could not be solved individually, and relate this concept to the design and construction of spacecraft.

This year's robotic competition is based on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Each student team will design, build and operate three robots that will compete against those of other teams in the "Robots of the Rings" game. Each team will task their robots with a series of complex maneuvers involving several balls, rings and a plastic frog on a regulation-size ping pong table. Students will use one robot to knock down a block wall and push as many balls onto the opponents' side of the table while simultaneously protecting their playing field. A second robot will push as many as 10 rings up a ramp and into the mouth of a "volcano." A third will push a plastic frog (the Balfrog) across a shaky bridge onto the opponents' side of the table and guard against its return.

Trophies will be awarded to the three teams with the highest scores, with additional awards for best teamwork, best robot design, and sportsmanship.

For five to six months prior to the competition, students spend a few hours each week on classroom activities focusing on teamwork and technology. "We present students with realistic challenges they can solve by effectively working together as a cohesive group," says Dave Weidow, founder of TEAMS and a teacher at The Odyssey School, Stevenson, Md. "Our classroom activities help students realize the importance teaming plays in accomplishing goals and objectives — lessons that will help them in the classroom and one day in the workplace."

"TEAMS is a fun way for students to better understand and practice various teaming concepts and how they can be used in space-related and other technology-oriented careers," says Kerri Beisser, of APL's Space Department Education and Public Outreach Office.

Media are invited to attend the event, which is being held at APL's Kossiakoff Center and includes photo opportunities. Games begin at 9:30 a.m. Interested members of the press should contact Kristi Marren for more information. APL, a division of The Johns Hopkins University, is located at 11100 Johns Hopkins Road, Laurel, Maryland.

The event is sponsored by APL, The Odyssey School, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, a.i. solutions, Computer Sciences Corporation, Maryland Space Business Roundtable, AIAA/Baltimore Section, Washington Academy of Sciences, and Comcast.

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For information, visit